What to expect at Puy du Fou theme Park, Vendée, France

What to expect at Puy du Fou theme Park, Vendée, France

It might be the second most popular theme park in France, after Disneyland Paris, but Puy du Fou is well-kept secret. This history-based theme park set in the Vendée region of central west France is little known outside the country. It celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. We visited last summer, and came away unsurprised that over two million people are drawn through its doors every year.

Here’s what to expect from Puy du Fou.

Puy du Fou

Spectacle

Even the most bitter cynic would fail to be impressed by the technical accomplishment of Puy du Fou’s shows. On any one day, visitors to the theme park can choose between up to 12 performances, some repeated two or three times. Each show is astonishing. Depending on which you choose, you’ll see acrobatics on horseback; lions, wild boar, wolves, and – in the bird show – around 200 birds of prey, circling and sweeping low over your head; and international award-winning pyrotechnics. Puy du Fou’s showcase performance, Cinéscénie, boasts 2,000 actors and is played out over a water-covered space of 23 hectares.

Puy du Fou

Puy du Fou

Viking show at Puy du Fou

Puy du Fou

It was impossible to see all the shows in one day, so we split up for part of it. The whole family saw Les Vikings, the mystical Le Bal des Oiseaux Fantomes, with levitating maidens and birds of prey. We also watched the 15-minute choreographed water fountain display, Les Grandes Eaux. D took our son to see a show about Gladiators, Le Signe de Triomph. I went with our daughter to watch what was billed as a show about knights and princesses, but turned out to be the story of Joan of Arc, Le Secret de la Lance. Each show lasts around an hour, and Puy du Fou covers a large area – 55 hectares, or 140 acres – so it was too far for little legs to manage more dashing about between shows than this.

Puy du Fou

Les Grandes Eaux

History

Puy du Fou is described as a history-based theme park. Its shows are all based around legendary tales from French and European history. As well as the shows, dotted around the park are reconstructions based on different eras. There’s a Medieval city, with gift shops, and an 18th Century village, where you can grab some fresh bread from the baker’s window.

Puy du Fou

Puy du Fou was set up in 1977 by Phillipe de Villiers, who later went on to gain success as a politician on the right-wing, Catholic side of French politics. His theme park reflects has a heavily Christian focus; I felt it would have been helpful to flag this up in their publicity material. When we visited last summer the historical shows covered a wide sweep across the centuries – and Christians always came up trumps. The (real-life) lions in the Gladiator show refused to eat the captive Christians, causing the Romans to convert to Christianity. Joan of Ark harnessed the power of God to battle marauding knights. And – in a slightly baffling twist – pillaging Vikings were subdued by the authority of a priest, who came out to bless them while they ransacked a village.

Puy du Fou

Puy du Fou

It wasn’t too far from versions of historical events I’ve heard here in the UK, but it still felt a little heavy-handed. I suspect someone from a non-Christian faith may have been uncomfortable with some of the plot twists in the shows.

Impeccable order

There’s on-site accommodation at Puy du Fou, as well as over twenty restaurants and snack bars. So long as you arm yourself with hats and plenty of water (there’s no shelter from the sun when you’re watching the shows), the theme park is an easy place to navigate with children.

When we visited in the height of summer the place was scorching hot. Dusty grit puffed up from the path with each footstep. But every hundred yards or so you could bathe in deliciously cooling jets of steam, from pipework concealed in rocks or trellises. Inside the park, clear signs showed you where to go for each performance, and monitors gave live information about which shows were about to open their doors. Surprisingly, given the massive volume of people watching each show (some of them seated over 500), none of the queues seemd to be particurly long. It was easy to find somewhere to sit, and performances began with clockwork regularity.

Puy du Fou

Puy du Fou

The grounds themselves were picturesque and well-kept. The park’s meandering path took you up past shady mini-waterfalls, and down past sackcloth-dressed gardeners. Like Alice in Wonderland’s playing cards tending the Red Queen’s roses, they pruned bushes and diligently swept lawns.

Puy du Fou

Puy du Fou

Puy du Fou

Puy du Fou

Our four-year-old wasn’t a big fan of the shows themselves (too many booming sounds, and peril). She did enjoy petting the theme park’s animals – horses, donkeys and goats – and playing in the knights’ fortress. At six my son was just about old enough to appreciate the spectacular performances, but even he struggled to use the audio translation headset (all the shows are in French). I’d say that children aged ten and over would enjoy Puy du Fou more.

We were guest of Puy du Fou theme park. Advance ticket prices range between €33 and €57 for adults, depending on whether they’re for one two, or three days, and €23-€42 for children.

If you’d like to read more about our stay in the Vendée region, here are some other posts:

Six reasons for families to visit the Vendée, France

What brings people back to La Garangeoire, in the Vendée, France?

A family holiday at La Garangeoire, Vendée, France

Eurocamp kids’ clubs at La Garangeoire, Vendée, France

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43 Comments

  1. February 2, 2017 / 10:43 am

    Interesting! You’re right – I’d never heard of it. Sounds a little bit random, but worth a visit.

    • Nell
      Author
      February 2, 2017 / 1:09 pm

      It was very random. Kind of glad I went, though.

  2. February 3, 2017 / 7:26 am

    It is a well kept secret – I’d never heard of this place – looks amazing – one for when the babies older #culturedkids

    • Nell
      Author
      February 3, 2017 / 10:39 am

      Yes, there weren’t any very young children there. Bit much for them, I’d say.

  3. February 3, 2017 / 8:31 am

    A very well kept secret but now I know there are levitating maidens with birds of prey I shall be spreading the word!

    • Nell
      Author
      February 3, 2017 / 10:38 am

      Yes – I’ve never seen anything like it….

  4. February 3, 2017 / 9:20 am

    A history themed park is a great idea this place sounds enormous and with a tonne of stuff to do. If we ever go to the vendee I would definiately take the kids here, thanks for sharing such an unusual place and thanks for hosting #cultured kids

    • Nell
      Author
      February 3, 2017 / 10:37 am

      And thanks for linking up!

  5. February 3, 2017 / 2:54 pm

    This place sounds so unusual but equally brilliant. Definitely slightly out of the ordinary but sounds like you guys had a great time! I’ll suggest it to my brother and his kids too (3, 6 and 8 yrs old) they spend a lot of time near Poitiers with family. I’m sure they would be up for it – he’s often on the lookout for things in the region. Thanks for inviting us to #CulturedKids we’re enjoying reading all these posts.

    • Nell
      Author
      February 6, 2017 / 9:04 pm

      Lovely to have you!

    • Nell
      Author
      February 6, 2017 / 9:22 pm

      Yes, that was pretty unique.

  6. February 4, 2017 / 12:44 pm

    Haha! Of course I’d be interested in the Vikings show! Quite impressive fire shows. I did not grow up with historical reenactments, so would have no basis for comparison. Sounds interesting, curious what my teens would think!

    • Nell
      Author
      February 6, 2017 / 9:32 pm

      Yes I wonder that too.

  7. February 4, 2017 / 1:23 pm

    My husband and I are totally excited about going to this sometime. It looks so fun!

    • Nell
      Author
      February 6, 2017 / 9:33 pm

      Enjoy!

  8. February 4, 2017 / 8:15 pm

    We were there just a week or two before you, in cooler weather. We couldn’t see all the shows either, partly because they don’t tell you when they are on until after you arrive, so you can’t plan. It’s not on the website. Our children are older and loved it. About the Christian theme – we found it just an incidental part of the retelling of the familiar legends. Except in the arena where we were instructed to cheer loudly for the Christians to be put to death!!! Good grief! But as France is a firmly secular republic, I think they can take religious stories in their stride and it doesn’t ruffle feathers. It’s only strange to us English.

    • Nell
      Author
      February 6, 2017 / 9:35 pm

      I was wondering what you’d make of it. It certainly wasn’t what I’m used to – but I was very impressed with all the special effects. The best I’ve seen in a live performance.

  9. February 4, 2017 / 10:49 pm

    Ohhh emm gee!! I lived in the Vendee region (Nantes) for a whole year and had no idea this was here! This is going on our list for a visit when we’re travelling, we’ll be heading to the Vendee to show the girls where I lived anyway so it will be great to add this in, I think my girls will love the shows, they’re really into anything gripping and exciting even if they don’t understand the lingo.
    Nat.x

    • Nell
      Author
      February 6, 2017 / 9:37 pm

      How interesting that you lived there! That must have been quite special – it’s a beautiful area.

  10. February 5, 2017 / 2:58 pm

    Seems like a unique park and I like that it’s so history-focused. Appreciate your honesty in regards to it being most effective with kids ages 10+. #culturedkids

    • Nell
      Author
      February 6, 2017 / 9:51 pm

      Yes – there’s no point in leading people into wrong decisions!

  11. February 5, 2017 / 3:05 pm

    Unlike most people who’ve commented I have heard of Puy du Fou (I’ve lived in France for 20 years, have kids and work in tourism/hospitality so I think it would be rather odd if I hadn’t). However, I had no idea about the Christian bias and that rather puts me off. I’ve never been hugely drawn to this park though the fact that it’s so enormously popular has always made me wonder if I (and more importantly) my kids would enjoy it. The shows sound very impressive but at an hour long, are they not a tad too long? Having read this I’m still no clearer as to whether it would be a good place for my family. I guess if we were in the area we might go but probably wouldn’t make a trip especially (unless I was given tickets…!!) Thanks for linking up to #AllAboutFrance

    • Nell
      Author
      February 6, 2017 / 10:02 pm

      Yes, we were given press tickets – otherwise I might have felt that we’d paid to go somewhere that wasn’t quite ‘us’. I can see that it would be very attractive to lots of others, though.

  12. February 5, 2017 / 6:21 pm

    Awesome write-up. I’m embarrassed to admit that I live quite close to the Puy de Fou but have never gone! A guy I used to know at my gym was a chef for one of the restaurants and raved about it. It’s very well known locally as well, so I think I need to get there one of these days. Sharing on FB 😉 #allaboutfrance

    • Nell
      Author
      February 6, 2017 / 10:03 pm

      That’s interesting – I wonder how they treat their staff. They did all seem to have a happy vibe about them, so they must be doing something right. Thanks for sharing!

  13. February 7, 2017 / 8:49 am

    We had an open air show up in County durham (Kyren) last summer that was produced by the guys who own this park. Looks quite similar in the battles scenes etc and involved lots of local people as volunteers. I think it might be coming back so will have to check it out. Closer than France! #culturedkids

    • Nell
      Author
      February 7, 2017 / 11:08 am

      Ah, that’s interesting! I bet the show was spectacular, if these guys were behind it.

  14. February 7, 2017 / 11:19 pm

    I love reading you travel adventures, Nell! Keep us posted and sharing your amazing pictures.

    • Nell
      Author
      February 15, 2017 / 2:58 pm

      Thank you!

  15. February 13, 2017 / 3:53 pm

    Haven’t heard of this either-looks like you guys had a great trip, I think my oldest two would have liked the shows. I always enjoy looking at your photographs Nell .

    • Nell
      Author
      February 15, 2017 / 3:53 pm

      Thank you!

  16. February 13, 2017 / 9:09 pm

    The shows really do sound spectacular! Good to know about the recommended age group, sounds like one to visit when the youngest are tweens. We love history and theme parks so it sounds like an excellent day out.

  17. February 15, 2017 / 7:39 am

    Thanks for introducing this place Nell…I’d never heard of it either! The Viking show in particular looks spectacular! A little strange about the overly religious plots but I’d consider going when the girls were older. Thanks for hosting #culturedkids

    • Nell
      Author
      February 15, 2017 / 4:11 pm

      Thanks for joining in Elizabeth!

  18. February 21, 2017 / 12:47 pm

    A historical theme park. I love it. I’m not a huge them park goer (except for Disney) but I would love this. #CulturedKids

    • Nell
      Author
      February 24, 2017 / 1:40 pm

      It was very different!

  19. February 22, 2017 / 7:54 pm

    What a strange sounding place! Interesting that it attracts so many visitors and yet so many reading this post (inc me) have never heard of it. I will definitely consider it when I visit the Vendee, I loved that region when I was a child. #culturedkids

    • Nell
      Author
      February 24, 2017 / 1:40 pm

      I know, I was surprised by the scale of it all!

  20. Joep de Bruin
    May 24, 2017 / 10:14 am

    Did you know that these guys also produced the “Ravelijn” Show in the Dutch attraction park Efteling.
    They do for serveral years now, and they also train the horses and birds that are used in the shows.

    • Nell
      Author
      May 25, 2017 / 6:40 pm

      I had heard that, from another blogger who read this post. Efteling is somewhere I’d love to visit!

  21. Rachel
    September 18, 2018 / 1:36 am

    How many days would you recommend for a visit? We are taking our 5 kids ages 7-18 next summer. Is one day plenty?

    • Nell
      Author
      September 18, 2018 / 11:07 am

      You definitely can’t see it all in one day. I think two days would be enough – and they have accommodation on-site. More if you want to use it as a base to explore the beautiful beaches in the Vendée, of course!

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